Heading for Heaven
3. Let me name another thing. Assurance is to be desired, because it tends to make a Christian a decided Christian. Indecision and doubt about our own state in God's sight is a grievous disease, and the mother of many evils. It often produces a wavering and an unstable walk in following the Lord. Assurance helps to cut many a knot, and to make the path of Christian duty clear and plain. Many, of whom we feel a hope that they are God's children, and have grace, however weak, are continually perplexed with doubts on points of practice. "Should we do such and such a thing Shall we give up this family custom? Ought we to go to that place? How shall we draw the line about visiting? What is to be the measure of our dressing and entertainments? Are we never to dance, never to play at cards, never to attend pleasure parties?" There are questions which seem to give them constant trouble. And often, very often, the simple root of this perplexity is that they do not feel assured that they themselves are children of God. They have not yet settled the point which side of the gate they ae on. They do not know whether they are inside the ark or not.
That a child of God ought to act in a certain decided way they quite feel, but the grand question is, "Are they children of God themselves?" If they only felt they were so, they would go straightforward and take a decided line; but not feeling sure about it, their conscience is for ever coming to a dead-lock. The devil whispers, "Perhaps, after all, you are only a hypocrite; what right have you to take a decided course? Wait till you are really a Christian." And this whisper too often just turns the scale, and leads on to some wretched conformity to the world.
Brethren, I verily believe you have here one reason why so many are inconsistent, unsatisfactory, and half-hearted in their conduct about the world. They feel no assurance that they are Christ's, and so they feel a hesitancy about breaking with the world. They shrink from laying aside all the ways of the old man, because they are not confident they have put on the new. Depend upon it, one secret of halting between two opinions is want of assurance.
4. Let me name one thing more. Assurance is to be desired because it tends to make the holiest Christians.
This, too, sounds wonderful and strange, and yet it is true. It is one of the paradoxes of the Gospel, contrary, at first sight, to reason and common-sense, and yet it is a fact. Bellarmine was seldom more wide of the truth than when he said, "Assurance tends to carelessness and sloth." He that is freely forgiven by Christ will always do much for Christ's glory, and he that has the fullest assurance of this forgiveness will ordinarily keep up the closest walk with God. It is a faithful saying in the first Epistle of John, "Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure."
None are so likely to maintain a watchful guard over their heart and life, as those who know the comfort of living in near communion with God. They feel their privilege, and will fear losing it. They will dread falling from their high estate and marring their own comforts by inconsistencies. He that goes a journey and has little money to lose, takes little thought of danger, and cares not how late he travels in a dangerous country. He that carries gold and jewels, on the contrary, will be a cautious traveler: he will look well to his road, his house, and his company, and run no risks. The fixed stars are those that tremble most. The man that most fully enjoys the light of God's reconciled countenance will be a man tremblingly afraid of losing its blessed comfort, and jealously fearful of doing anything to grieve the Holy Spirit.
Beloved, brethren, would you have a great peace? Would you like to feel the everlasting arms around you, and to hear the voice of Jesus drawing nigh to your soul, and saying, "I am thy salvation"? Would you be useful in your day and generation? Would you be known of all as bold, firm, decided, single-eyed followers of Christ? Would you be eminently spiritually-minded and holy? "Ah!" you will some of you say, "these are the very things we desire: we long for them, we pant after them, but they seem far from us."
Then take my advice this day. Seek an assured hope, like Paul's. Seek to obtain a simple, childlike confidence in God's promises. Seek to be able to say with the apostle, "I know whom I have believed; I am persuaded that He is mine and I am His."
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 29)